Friday, December 16, 2011

My carnatic musings

Much before the advent of  TV in Bangalore, my mom, a veena player would tune into one of those  carnatic concerts called December Kacheri held in chennai on AIR.  Amma would hum the kritis and  could identify the ragas , When I asked her how she could identify  the ragas?.  She told me since she had learnt music and with continuous listening and practice, one could identify. 

Till then, I who was a passive listener told my mom I too wanted to play veena like her, Amma advised  me  to take carnatic vocal, since veena or Sitar would be difficult to lug around and so enrolled me  in a vocal class. Thus started my love for this carnatic music, though my music lessons were aborted after a year and half, my love for this genre has grown manifold . (my very old teacher got married and left and with no music tutors around it got aborted).

And now it’s December again or Margazhi in tamil.

Madras aka Chennai’s air would be musical  in margazhi (mid dec –Mid jan) hosting a  cultural/musical extravaganza which is one of its kind in the  world.

This cultural  fest also called as December Kacheri(concert) or margazhi kacheri was started in 1927 to commemorate the founding of Madras music academy. A music conference was held during the Madras session of Indian national congress.(info courtesy: India Heritage) and today adopted by various sabhas(concert halls) in different parts of the city. According to a cultural magazine sruti ,  a few years back  53 organisations conducted  60 festivals in a period of 117 days . Music  and dance concerts  numbered at 1604 and its increasing every year.  Possibly nowhere in the world so many organizations conduct so many festivals in such a short period of time ,thus making it as one of the unparalled fests  in the world.The fest is not restricted to vocals. It showcases a wide spectrum of talent in Instruments, dance, drama and even lec-dems are held.

Come December and World over,  many cities gear up to  attract holiday tourism while   Madras attracts concert tourism.  Musicians and scholars from all over the world  congregrate to this city to participate in the music fest, It is considered prestigious to sing in these cultural sabhas during MArgazhi. It also serves as a platform for  upcoming artists. 

 Today this genre of music has reached international arena and similar fests are organized by Indians abroad.  Recently  Jaya TV had organized an event called carnatic music idol,USA specially for children born and raised in the USA.  It was a pure aural and visual treat to find so many children dressed traditionally  rendering carnatic song. I could'nt stop admiring and appreciate the kids  for keeping the cultural flag flying high in foreign shores.

When it was my turn to introduce my children to this music, taking them to concerts organized in Hyderabad like S.Sowmya,  Mahanadhi Shobhana , various concerts at skandagiri helped them to develop interest.

 Listening to music is theraupetic, more so when the music form is rooted in devotion and main content is spiritual like in one of the oldest form of music – carnatic music.

Today,this music is slightly  fused with western instruments to create a new genre called pep or pop carnatic.

My favorite voice on carnatic belongs to Bharat Ratna   M.S.Subbalakshmi whose timeless and matchless voice is bound to resonate till eternity.  Her Bhavayami Gopalabalam is one of my favorite.  The divine voice transports you to a different plane altogether

My favorite Bhavayami gopalabalam by MSS

A fused kriti set to orchestration by Rock to raaga band

A fused varnam by Amogha band  for a telugu movie 


  1. MS is, of course, incomparable. Very few people can move hearts like she can. The song you posted is a timeless classic.

    Carnatic musice is alive and kicking these days. Some 10-15 years ago, it looked like it would die. The renaissance is lovely to see.

  2. An apt for the Kutcheri season.
    Whenever I am in Chennai ,I also visit these music sabhas along with my niece who is a classical singer herself to listen to kutcheris. I was also learning veena which I would start again once I am back in Chennai.

  3. MS paadinaanganna..entha songa irunthalum it gets divinity attached to it..such a voice!! inimay oruthar poranthuthaan varanum to match..awesome performer. Asathal post as usual :) kalakreenga madam. unga own voicela oru song upload pannalamay :)

  4. My sister use to learn how to play this and she was very good at it ..

    the videos you have put beautiful


  5. There was a time when I was learning Music just to pass time, even I could recognize the ragas of some of the songs, even I would not have learnt that particular song, still the similarity would make me guess correctly. Afterwards, I lost touch with this skill and can no longer guess.
    It is true, once we are surrounded by music all the time, it becomes easier to enjoy it.
    I am equally amazed at the way people recite the various long slokas by heart, it is because from childhood they have been listening to it everyday.

  6. my daughter went for music classes in navi mumbai...there was no progress in 2 yrs..she gave she is in IT field..but the younger one is much into music..well, a matter of taste

  7. @ ramesh - you are so right, very few move hearts like MSS. thank you :)

    @ Chitra- wow, do you play veena? hope to hear your kutcheri someday. thank you :)

    @ gils - absolutely any song sung by MSS is divine. en pattu uploada? pannalamay :) but ensure your speakers and monitor are insured:)

    @ bikramjit - oh, that' nice. what does your sis play veena? or sitar?

    @ rama - yes, long slokas like vishnusahasranamam are learnt better by aural method than through memorising.

    @r.ramesh - yes, tastes differ. even my son prefers instruments like tabla and keyboard to vocal.